Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Yawning Chasm - Whispered Sun EP

Aaron Coyne has kept a relatively low profile since the 2009 release of his excellent The Shadow Is That Hidden EP on Rusted Rail: there have been some impressive live shows (with DeclanQKelly joining him for live duties), but release-wise he’s been quiet up until now. 2012 so far has seen a gear-shift in activity. The Shadow... in its full glory (with the Rusted Rail EP being an edited version) as well as earlier lower-than-lo-fi album Snarl were first uploaded to Bandcamp for free download. That was followed by a small tour taking in unique venues in Cork, Limerick, Dublin and Galway, at which limited-run CDR’s of a new EP - Whispered Sun - were available. Now that that tour has been wound down with a well-received performance at Galway’s Bell, Book & Candle/Wingnut Records, said EP has also been made available for free download.

The extended version of The Shadow... adds three tracks: ‘Life Is Elsewhere’, ‘December’ and ‘When The Sun Dies’, and they’re very much of a piece with the rest of the material. Veering between non-linear psych-folk-influenced fare (‘Tumble River’) and twilit folk simplicity on tracks like ‘Your Bones Will Bleach White’ and the gorgeous ‘Monsters’; The Shadow... is also reminiscent at times of The Driftwood Manor: ‘Distant Fires’ combining weary-sounding folk with eerily chattering static and noise. Coyne’s vocals - wistful and often mournful-sounding - seem to chime with their musical surroundings so perfectly, in a way that recalls Sam Beam of Iron & Wine’s similarly weathered-but-charming tones.

The Whispered Sun EP is fuller-sounding, nodding to slow-core as well as folk. Now recording as a duo, plaintive acoustic strumming gives way to swelling, enveloping song structures, almost drone-like in places; but the feel remains lo-fi and homespun. Again, the mood seems despondent at times, as on the windswept ‘Moon Silver Ocean’, where a slow, sombre guitar figure is surrounded by wracked-sounding keys, the song gradually growing in intensity. ‘Before I Was Here’ is milder and mellower, bridging the gap somewhat, as ‘Your Blue, Blue, Blue, Blue Eyes Are Killing Me’ is somewhere between hymnal and haunted: beginning with melancholic guitar tones, the repetition of the title is reflected in the creeping, quiet intensity of the track as its lyrics and instrumentation become ever-more-insistent. A lament or a song of devotion? That’s up to the listener.

As outlined on Noiseblog, there’s plenty more to come from Yawning Chasm: three more 4-song EPs and a new album around autumn-time is the plan; while with the addition of a drummer to flesh out their sound further, there will hopefully be more chances to see them in a live setting. This is an essential part of their vibe: in common with numerous other like-minded artists (such as Brigid Power Ryce, or Raising Holy Sparks - who played a very well-received support slot to Grouper in Dublin’s Unitarian Church the other week), Yawning Chasm take an intentionally non-conformist approach to live performance: vocals are non-mic’d where possible, playing on a stage is avoided in favour of playing on a floor, and the preference is for small venues with a unique character: all, ultimately, in the service of breaking down any perceived barrier between performer and audience.

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